November always seems to be a month that lends itself to thinking back over the past, Piers Anthony's Xanth series to the contrary (If you are not a fan, sufficient to say Xanth is a very punny place and No Remember takes the place of the month of November in that land).
Usually it's Thanksgiving that brings on thoughts of the past. For me, the tradition of that holiday is not in a family gathering (for seldom, if ever, do I remember more than just my small nuclear family at the table) but in the making of the meal. It was a mom-and-me thing, while dad took his last turn around the golf course (in Michigan... often as the snow began to fall... and often still wearing his trademark Bermuda shorts one last time for the year.) In some families the menfolk -- and these days often at least some of the women as well -- spend the day hunting, but that was our tradition. My folks always wanted to watch the parades on TV, but after the first year I don't recall that keeping my attention. I wanted to be in the kitchen, helping mix the stuffing, roll the pie crust, put together the pumpkin filling, chopping apples and celery for Waldorf salad and running the wooden tool around the conical sieve to squish the cranberry goodness from the skins for jelled cranberry sauce.
Today, still, I make the full meal. All the traditional sides made the traditional ways. I save bread heels for months to dry for the stuffing, peel and mash white potatoes to go with turkey gravy, cook an acorn type squash, put together Waldorf salad (thought this year, if the Gods be with us, there will be green salad fresh from the garden as well!) and home made pumpkin pie, with whipped and sweetened cream for those who want it (I omit this part if I am alone as I never liked the stuff). I usually omit the fresh rolls now (though baking bread often begins to happen again in November still) and shudder at the thought of green bean casserole. I wonder how that ever came to be tradition for so many folks? I also make whole berry cranberry sauce now... with local berries. I just found some today! And I think about my mom and me, steaming up the windows and talking about "how things were in the old days"... not the Pilgrims and Indians thing, but more generally what it must have been like to cook over a fire or in a hearth and what it was like when Mom was a girl and it was Granma Katie at the stove... things like that. Now I think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving meals cooked on the wood stoves and opening the house door to regulate the temperature of the kitchen!
Today, though, my mind has been on a different track. Thanksgivings -- though there have been plenty of them -- do not make me feel old. Today has. Listening to the radio as I ran my errands on a dull overcast day... listening to the recollections of the Kennedy era 50 years ago, on this the anniversary of his assignation... really makes me feel old. It's not just because it's been 50 years since the day the news was relayed over the PA system into the classroom where I sat... a 15 year old sophomore, just shy of three months into a new school in a new state. It's more because of the incredible contrast that the memories of that time... and that "me" bring into focus as they are juxtaposed against NOW and the already slightly depressed "me" running frustrating errands after a day of work, prepping against the beginning of "black Friday week" insanity on a dull November day.
I am thankful that, at times, the weather had the presence of mind to drop a few bits of snow. Seems to me that when it's cold (as it was today) and dreary, there might at least be some snow! LOL
But back to the memories... I remember Ike (and somewhere in my photo archives, I have a photo of him, passing in a motorcade in South Bend, Indiana... shot with my little Brownie camera from a perch atop my dad's shoulders. I remember the election season with Ike running against Stevenson and remember thinking Stevenson was a very smart man and probably should win the election. And of course I remember Kennedy. I was not even a teen yet, but he captured my attention. I was a space geek and loved his support of the space program. I remember Sputnik and the space race and Echo, our first satellite. And the tension of the Cuban missile crisis... And the way the fashion industry embraced Jackie and her neat shifts and pillbox hats... And the Vietnam war and the way -- not long after his death -- we thought that we could change the course of things with protest.
It was a time, it seems, when folks were more involved and maybe even that we cared more. Or maybe we were just young and had more energy then, who knows... My memories of those days are set against the bright blue sky (on less smoggy days) of Southern California. THAT November day was bright, then and there... not bleak and overcast and cold. Our attitudes were still bright and bold, though it seems in many ways that when those shots rang out the reverberations changed everything... some at once, some still lingering.
And so, my memories of those bright Camelot days poured out and rattled around the car in counterpoint to my workworn, tired and aching body on a dull, cold Maine November.
Tonight I shall pull my chair close to the heater, light a candle for Frigga and reach for the light of countless hearthfires in eras past and future. And I will lift my glass and hail AllMother and hail those who lead with pure intent. And I shall hail as well those who walk with honor and truth in their hearts and who stand against the darkness of hate and oppression where ever it may be found. So Be It!